Jo Hicks has been working as a paralegal most of her adult life with a job to help low-income families and the elderly. She can give legal advice and assistance, act as an advocate and negotiate for the client. As a paralegal at New Mexico Legal Aid, Jo provides her services to those who would otherwise not be able to afford them. She refers to herself as bleeding heart liberal. “As a single mother of three, I certainly know what it is like to be poor.”
Her goal is to make sure that all the people who walk through the door are treated with dignity and respect. The people who come in to the Roswell office are desperate, don’t understand the law, and by the time they are referred to her, they are angry. “You can understand their frustation. It’s amazing what people don’t know. You can never forget that — what it’s like not to understand the legal system,” Jo said.
N.M. Legal Aid has investigated discrimination cases for the HUD. They provide services for civil suits, including family law and consumer law.
Jo has investigated frauds and scams, although she says some of her most challenging were domestic violence cases.
“You see so many different things here. You learn something new every day. I learned computers here.” Jo has seen a rise in caregiver cases following cutbacks in Medicare and Medicaid. “What is the alternative? They can stay in their homes or go to a nursing home at the cost of $6,000 a month.”
Jo also negotiates with the various agencies. “Most paralegals don’t do advocacy. They work as assistants.”
She grew up in Roswell. Her family has lived in Roswell for generations. Her great-grandmother was Texie Lou Hicks (8-16-1879 to 8-4-1972). “My grandmother Hicks had a third-grade education … She went back to school to get her LPN in the 1950s and worked until she was in her 70s … so including my children and my grandchildren, that’s six generations of Hickses in Roswell,” Jo said.
She graduated from Goddard High School, where she participated in dance drill. In 1983, she went to Texas Institute for Paralegal Studies in Austin. “It was my sister Janetta who suggested I become a paralegal.”
Jo thinks highly of the people with whom she has worked. “There was Shelbie Allen and Vince Masters, who returned to Legal Aid recently. Jared Kalunki was named Pro Bono Attorney of the Year,” she said. Two new people have joined the legal team — lawyer Tamera Reeves and Executive Director Ed Marks — and Jo is excited about the prospects for the future.
She has also received inspiration from her clients. Jo referred to one, a disabled woman who wanted to work, as a “shining light. She was a devoted caregiver. She was willing to try experimental procedures in order to overcome her disability, and she opened her house to the homeless.
How many people do that?”
Jo is active in her church. Her family was among the founders. Her father is, and her grandmother was, charter members at Bethel Baptist Church.
“Granny Smith started the church in her living room. She walked around on a crutch. It was not a church then; it was a mission. My dad is 75.
He started going when he was 12 years old.”
Jo works with the church’s group, the AWANAS, Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed. Jo described it as something similar to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. She also worked with the Bethel Baptist Children’s Choir. She has taught Sunday school and Bible studies to all ages from kindergarten to middle school.
She is close to her daughter and says if she has any hobby, it is her grandchildren, although she confesses to being a junk shop junkie. She haunts thrift stores and garage sales. Jo takes items that she buys and makes them into something new. “I just can’t see paying full price for clothes. My dream is to go to all the thrift shops in the state of New Mexico.”